Urbanity and Intervening in City Fabric

  • By: Anshuman Gupta
  • Posted on August,6 2016

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by Anuj K Jain (Photo credits : Saurabh Biswas)

Cities are places where people dwell. The places are made of buildings, open spaces, elements of landscape. The cultural and ritualistic choices of people shapes the space formation.

The continuity of spaces within the built and the unbuilt fabric is so important that anything that is disjoint will result in dilapidation, dereliction – desolation and haven for people who are social outcasts and have a pathogenic mindset.

The continuity however, creates experiential transitions from public places to semi public to private all without extra ordinary physical separation. The narrative in a city flows from city square to street, street to semi private /semi- opaque building threshold, from building threshold to inner courtyard and finally to private quarters.

The open spaces and the built space makes a yin- yang pattern which complements each other perfectly. What makes cities work is human interaction. Spaces have to facilitate interaction seamlessly. It is the human interaction which provides enough flow to keep the built space rejuvenated and living ( literally and metaphorically). When people don’t identify with spaces, it deteriorates very fast.

People live in cities, work in cities, enjoy in cities and shape their life around cities. Regionalism comes out of how cities are shaped, culture evolved and urbanity setting in. People shape places and the places then shape their urbanity.

In order to see a demonstratable change in the quality of living of people, it’s important to shape cities that inculcate ‘place formation’ that results in an urbanity that’s culturally rich, ecologically responsive, with contextual lineage, caters to all age groups, cohesive and cross-connected.

Using Layers of history in city fabric as well as disciplined design around natural features available at a site are strong starting points for creating ideal places. Handling of points of connectivity ( be it transport interconnection hubs, public squares, street confluences, markets, places for public such as memorials/ museums/ demonstration areas etc), interfaces between old Vs new/ rich areas Vs not so rich areas/ urban areas Vs rural areas, re densification of derelict areas and de- congestion of over crowded areas, fiercely regulating environmental standards such as air/ water quality and preserving natural landscape under all circumstances – are some of the basics required to establish ideal places.

The fruits of giving people ideal places are good quality of living for people, happier masses with less friction and crime, healthier lifestyles and reduction in social welfare spending, caring and responsible citizens, visually stimulating cityscape etc.

The key to make existing cities or new cities as ideal places is in designing and re-designing. City design is a confluence of many disciplines such as history, geography, geology, botany, tradition ( folk arts& crafts, social & cultural background ), economics, architecture & landscape architecture, urban & transport planning etc.

Urbanity is an ever-changing integration of urban quality. The designers who are able to calculate the exact coordinates and momentum of where urbanity is at a point of time and where it’s heading, are able to suggest changes and alterations to manoeuvre this congruous cloud of urbanity variables.

Open and built spaces in City fabric follow the political power structure, civic order established by the ruling regime and cultural needs of the people of the city. With time as nature of power structure, needs of civic society and common man all change; the physical built environment finds it difficult to adapt and cater to new functional / space / services requirements / lifestyle aspirations of the classes as well as masses.

Under such circumstances, where the layer of form doesn’t fit the layer of function, there arises a constant struggle where each tries to appropriate the other. The continuity and urbanity is tremendously affected and unless radical inspiring urban interventions are deliberated in time, the Built environment is distorted and destroyed beyond repair / reinstatement / renewal/ re-imagination.

In order to identify the trending urbanity in an existing habitat and it’s misfit with the built environment around it , careful piecemeal interventions need to be carried out. The interventions should be so positive, genuine and emotionally connecting with People occupying these places that they get involved and take pride in their built environment and cherish it. Common People often feel helpless / vision less experiencing this shift of urbanity, but designers can bring back the excitement and pleasure of ‘ideal places’ by identifying the Urbanity Vs Built environment equation in case and suggesting interventions that creates order, continuity and quality into the genus loci of the urban fabric.

Humans and cities are dynamic constantly changing entities. Their confluence creates urbanity. Urbanity reflects the state of both humans and cities at a point in time. It is ‘the’ marker that designers should choose to understand, solve and re-imagine interventions in cities.

(Title page image source : http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000m1Mtwp7k49s/s/860/688/Iran-Persia-Yazd-MF0042.jpg)

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